Effects of dehydroepiandrosterone supplementation on cognitive function and activities of daily living in older women with mild to moderate cognitive impairment

Geriatr Gerontol Int. 2010 Oct;10(4):280-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1447-0594.2010.00625.x. Epub 2010 May 17.


Aim: There is little evidence that dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) has beneficial effects on physical and psychological functions in older women. We investigated the effect of DHEA supplementation on cognitive function and ADL in older women with cognitive impairment.

Methods: A total of 27 women aged 65-90 years (mean ± standard deviation, 83 ± 6) with mild to moderate cognitive impairment (Mini-Mental State Examination, MMSE; 10-28/30 points), receiving long-term care at a facility in Japan were enrolled. Twelve women were assigned to receive DHEA 25 mg/day p.o. for 6 months. The control group (n = 15) matched for age and cognitive function was followed without hormone replacement. Cognitive function was assessed by MMSE and Hasegawa Dementia Scale-Revised (HDS-R), and basic activities of daily living (ADL) by Barthel Index at baseline, 3 and 6 months. Plasma hormone levels including testosterone, DHEA, DHEA-sulfate and estradiol were also followed up.

Results: After 6 months, DHEA treatment significantly increased plasma testosterone, DHEA and DHEA-sulfate levels by 2-3-fold but not estradiol level compared to baseline. DHEA administration increased cognitive scores and maintained basic ADL score, while cognition and basic ADL deteriorated in the control group (6-month change in DHEA group vs control group; MMSE, +0.6 ± 3.2 vs -2.1 ± 2.2, P < 0.05; HDS-R, +2.8 ± 2.8 vs -0.3 ± 4.1, P < 0.05; Barthel Index, +3.7 ± 7.1 vs -2.7 ± 4.6, P = 0.05). Among the cognitive domains, DHEA treatment improved verbal fluency (P < 0.05).

Conclusion: DHEA supplementation in older women with cognitive impairment may have beneficial effects on cognitive function and ADL.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / blood
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology*
  • Administration, Oral
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cognition Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Cognition Disorders / prevention & control
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / blood
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / pharmacology*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Long-Term Care


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Estradiol